For the Ken Watrous family in Las Vegas, the Springs Preserve was one of those hard sells at first. It becomes something else quickly. Essentially a cluster of museums, like Spring Mountain, the purpose of the area is to show a series of natural and outdoor exhibits but also it has enough indoor activities showing the effects of the natural world.
This is a place that sounds mostly educational, and it is, but the educational experts have worked hard to make an area with a lot of other appeals. This is a great and fun place with plenty to do and an easy way to access most of the materials. The exhibits also have a mixture of old favorites and constantly changing and adding new ones so that most of the visits change from month to month.
There are three major areas of what is Spring Preserve. These are the Origen museum area, the Nevada State museum, and the trail areas. While they have them split into even more, these are the main buildings.
The Origen museum (a combination of origin and generation) has some of the older staple fun things. These include the flash flood demonstrator which is like a very frightening water park. There is a theater and several different shows. Some are for fun, like they are playing ET most of the summer, others are more education like the Miracle in the Mojave, which is a history of the museum and the importance of the Nevada desert to several different parts of American life.
A lot of what I like about Springs Preserve is in their attention to the outdoor world as a beneficial place that can be shaped and dealt with, but not necessarily changed. They care about the environment because of its beauty and its dangers. The trails outside of the museum take you through trips around a lot of different native plants and animals and they give informative tours about the benefits and uses of each.
They also talk about the changes to the area from settlers over time. There are archeological digs of ancient settlers and remains of houses and buildings from settlers over 150 years ago. There are also exhibits that show off ways that people have changed the landscape for the better. Some of the sustainability demonstrations are fun to interact with, with ways that some trash can be used as new materials. These sorts of things really get me and the family talking about what we should be doing in and around our own houses to create a sustainable environment and not to be too wasteful. These are hard conversations to have, but the kids bring it up after a day checking out all of the interesting creations from second-hand objects.
The Butterfly habitat is a more enclosed area. Still open to the outside world, so that it can let the butterflies in and out, but it is a fenced area that lets the kids walk around and see butterflies of whole different varieties up close. This is a great place to just hang out and soak up the laughter. There are always kids in there and they are always giggling and enjoying the slow and fast movements of these really colorful floating bugs. They also sell plants from a teaching garden that demonstrates to kids and to adults what and how to plant in the desert and work towards growing things with little water and a lot of heat.
Finally, they have a solar powered building that is working towards being totally self-sufficient. This is really interesting technology that can get the attention of older kids that like to question the how and why of everything we do. For the mechanical minded and those that want to work with their hands, the Springs Preserve is more a museum about what we have accomplished and how, and less just a collection of exhibits about times gone past. When someone talks about living history as a concept, this has to be the type of thing they are interested in demonstrating.